ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

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UNDP Annual Report: closing the gender gap will accelerate resolutions to multifaceted crises

Gender equality is the key foundation of a sustainable and prosperous world, and it’s fundamental to tackling many of the crises the world faces today. 

Representing half of the world’s population—and half of its potential—women play a crucial role in driving social and economic progress forward, creating sustainable development solutions, and building peaceful societies. 

We are currently, however, not on track to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 by 2030. Structural gender inequality often underlies multifaceted crises such as social and economic poverty, conflict, and the stagnation– or reversing– of inclusive governance and peaceful societies.

In its Annual Report 2023, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) highlighted gender equality as a core development area through which it helps countries worldwide address structural barriers and lay the foundations for a sustainable, inclusive future. 

“Today, almost 700 million people live in extreme poverty, predominantly in conflict-affected countries and rural areas...If unchecked, the climate crisis may drive 135 million people into poverty by 2030.”

Job creation empowers women and girls

The UNDP report highlights the need to reach women, youth, and informal workers with solutions that generate much-needed jobs and livelihoods, including the creation of 50 million jobs for youth across Africa. One of the initiatives launched is the pan-African YouthConnekt platform that offers financing and training to youth-owned businesses in 32 African countries. Tapping into the economic, social, and public leadership potential of African youth, YouthConnekt identifies and nurtures young leaders, and advances gender parity in fields including education, employment, and technology.

By addressing gender gaps in social protection systems, care policies, and access to essential services, UNDP is also working to tackle the social and structural roots of gender inequality. In South Sudan, for example, the digitizing of a traditional, communal savings and lending practice used mostly by women is spurring the financial inclusion of 1.6 million people.

Women’s essential role in the climate fight

On the climate front, UNDP’s report emphasizes the contribution of women to solutions that benefit the environment and protect the planet’s biodiversity. The organization’s climate portfolio is providing support to 142 countries, directly benefiting more than 37 million people, nearly half of whom are women. Through its assistance, UNDP has allowed 3,500 rural women from 93 countries, including several African countries, to become solar engineers and bring sustainable energy to their villages and communities.

By addressing gender gaps in social protection systems, care policies, and access to essential services, UNDP is also working to tackle the social and structural roots of gender inequality. In South Sudan, for example, the digitizing of a traditional, communal savings and lending practice used mostly by women is spurring the financial inclusion of 1.6 million people.

The importance of inclusive governance

“Important development advances were overshadowed by pervasive inequalities: the gender gap in education narrowed, with some glaring exceptions like Afghanistan, and yet women had equal legal rights to men in only 14 countries in the world.”

Two of the UNDP’s signature solutions – Governance and Gender Equality – aim to reduce these pervasive inequalities. The report underscored UNDP’s work to improve inclusive governance and advance gender-responsive policies and reforms through initiatives that aim to make fiscal policies work for gender equality, such as Equanomics. Through a holistic approach to governance, UNDP is helping to enhance “people’s participation and respect for human rights – particularly for women, youth, and other marginalized groups.”

The UNDP has increased election participation by:

Dr. Jendayi Frazer, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, highlighted the marginal progress made in women’s representation at the highest levels of government during her remarks at the Amujae High-Level Leadership Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. She noted:

 “The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Women in Parliament in 2023 report showed that, last year, the share of elected or appointed women MPs in the 52 countries that held elections improved by 1.4% compared to the previous polls in these countries.

It is imperative that the number of women in leadership positions continues to increase and women are able to participate meaningfully in decision-making at the highest levels. It will contribute to achieving SDG5 while also accelerating progress toward the other SDGs, and bolstering global efforts to create an inclusive, equitable future for all.

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